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The Cat's Meat Man - Harper's



In one corner of Fulton Market in New York city is the snug little stall of the cat's-meat man. He is a jolly, merry-looking fellow, as you may see by his picture; and he sings and whistles as he works. In the morning he goes about the streets feeding his cats; but his afternoons are devoted to preparing their food for the next day.

Most of this food is raw meat, which, with a sharp knife, he cuts up into very small pieces, until several hundred pounds are thus prepared. Sometimes a small portion of the meat is boiled; but this cooked meat is only intended for cats who are not very well, and who need something more delicate than raw meat. Once a week—on Thursdays—the cat's-meat man cuts up fish instead of meat; for on Fridays all his cats have a meal of fish, of which they are very fond, and which is very good for them.

After the meat or fish has been nicely cut into bits, it is all done up in small brown-paper parcels, each of which weighs a pound; and these parcels are packed into great strong baskets. Each basket holds forty or fifty of these pound packages, and is pretty heavy for the cat's-meat man to carry.

Bright and early in the morning, soon after sunrise, the cat's-meat man begins to feed his cats, starting out from the market with a big basket of meat on his shoulder, and threading his way through the crooked streets and lanes of the lower part of the city to the homes of his little customers.


Everywhere the cats and kittens are anxiously waiting and watching for him, and sometimes they run out and meet him at the corners half a block or more away from their homes. Often when he is feeding the cats on one side of the street, those living on the other side run across, and rubbing against his legs, mewing and purring, seem to beg him to hurry and get over to their side. Of course these cats do not belong to the cat's-meat man, though he takes just as much interest in them, and is just as fond of them, as though they were his own. They are the cats that live in the stores and warehouses of the lower portion of the city, where they are kept as a protection against the armies of fierce rats that come up from the wharves, and do terrible damage wherever the cats are not too strong for them. For this reason the cats are highly prized and well cared for in this part of the city, and the cat's-meat man finds plenty of work to do in feeding them. He is paid for this by the owners of the cats, and as he has about four hundred customers his business is quite a thriving one.

The cats all know and love him, and are generally expecting him; but if he opens the door of a store where one of his cats lives, and she is not to be seen, he calls "Pss-pss-pss," and the kitty comes racing down stairs, or from some distant corner, so fast that she nearly tumbles head over heels in her hurry to get at her breakfast.

Some of the cats are only fed every other day, and they know just as well as anybody when it is "off day," as the cat's-meat man calls it. On these off days they lie perfectly still as he passes, paying no attention to him; but on the days they are to be fed, these "every-other-day cats" are the most eager of all, and travel the greatest distances to meet their friend.


Besides the cats, several dogs are fed daily by the cat's-meat man, and of these the most interesting is Carlo. Carlo used to be a sailor dog, but now he lives quietly in a store on Old Slip. His first master was a sea-captain, with whom Carlo made voyages to many different parts of the world. At last his kind master, who was as fond of Carlo as though he had been an only child, became very sick with a terrible fever, and when his ship reached New York, he was taken to a hospital to die. Carlo went to the hospital with him, and just before the dying sailor breathed his last, he begged a kind gentleman who stood beside his bed to take care of Carlo. The gentleman promised to do so, and has ever since kept his promise by giving Carlo a good home in his store, and paying the cat's-meat man to feed him every day. Carlo repays this kindness by keeping the store free from rats, and his reputation as a famous ratter has spread far and wide through the neighborhood.

Many stray cats watch for the coming of the cat's-meat man, for they know that he will befriend them, and many a tidbit does he give to some lean hungry creature as he merrily trudges along through the winter snow-drifts.

At certain corners the cat's-meat man is met by one of his assistants, with whom he exchanges his empty basket for a full one. These halting-places are well known to all the forlorn and homeless cats and dogs, and at them a number of these always await his approach. He most always throws them a few bits from his well-filled basket, for which they seem very grateful, though they look as if they would be very glad of more.

Besides feeding cats and dogs, the cat's-meat man cares for them when they are sick, preparing special food for his patients, and sometimes giving them small doses of medicine. So, you see, the cat's-meat man is a real benefactor, and it is no wonder that all the cats and dogs in the lower part of the city watch for his coming, and are glad when they see him.